If you are planning to rely heavily on Social Security to fund your retirement, you may well be looking for the best places to live on about $35,000 a year. Why $35,000? For 2019 the average monthly Social Security benefit for retired workers is $1,461. That adds up to $17,532 annually, which doubles to $35,064 for married couples who are both receiving individual benefits. 

Living well on $35,000 a year would be virtually impossible in the Big Apple or San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other places in the U.S. where you could retire comfortably on that amount. If you think a move is doable once you leave the nine-to-five for good, the following cities are budget-friendly picks.

Key Takeaways

  • The average monthly Social Security benefit for retired workers is $1,461 in 2019, which means two retiring spouses could have about $35,000 a year to live on.
  • There are affordable places to live all across the country, where a couple can enjoy low taxes, opportunities to be active, and good healthcare in retirement.
  • Even if you don't move, downsizing, paying off debt, and eliminating unnecessary spending can help you stretch your retirement funds.

5 Best Places to Retire on $35,000 a Year

The cities selected for inclusion on this list were chosen based on three specific factors: cost of living, tax-friendliness, and access to affordable healthcare. These urban centers also offer recreation opportunities and amenities that may appeal to seniors who like to be on the move and stay active. 

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Grand Rapids is western Michigan’s business hub, and it’s a good choice for retirees who are seeking quality medical care, moderately priced housing, and an abundance of things to do. The cost of living is 9% below the national average as of 2019, and Spectrum Health is nationally ranked for its standard of care. Between museums, botanical gardens, and walking tours of the city’s historic districts, there’s no shortage of opportunities to stay active. 

El Paso, Tex.

Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, you'll fall in love with the low cost of living, friendly people, and beautiful landscapes. The winters are mild, the climate is dry, and overall, the cost of living in 2019 is 12.80% lower than the rest of the United States, with a median home cost of $124,900. Aside from housing, groceries, healthcare, utilities, and miscellaneous expenses all fall below the average cost of living for the U.S. as a whole. The only exception is transportation, which is slightly higher than the national average.

Knoxville, Tenn.

Nashville and Memphis are two of Tennessee’s biggest tourist attractions, but there’s a lot to be said for spending your retirement years in Knoxville. In 2019 the cost of living is 18% lower than in the rest of the country, and no state income tax makes it easier to get by on $35,000 a year. It doesn’t hurt that there are a dozen quality hospitals in the area, including the University of Tennessee Medical Center, which is nationally ranked for pulmonary care.

Summerville, S.C.

Charleston is one of South Carolina’s favorite destinations for visitors and retirees, but you’ll need more than a budget-lover's resources to live there. Summerville, on the other hand, is conveniently close by and notably less expensive. You’re less than 30 miles from the Medical University of South Carolina, one of the best hospitals in the state, and the cost of living is 8% below average in 2019. South Carolina property tax rates are the fifth lowest in the country, and the state doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.

The cost of living in these five cities ranges from 8% to 18% below the average cost of living for the U.S. as a whole.

Springfield, Mo.

Springfield can't be beat for a low cost of living. Overall, it's 12.4% cheaper than the U.S. and one of the least expensive places to live in Missouri. While healthcare costs are slightly above the national average, it's an ideal destination for bargain hunters seeking affordable housing. The median home price is $138,300, and home prices have increased only moderately over the last decade. The proximity to Missouri State University makes Springfield something of a college town, but that could be a plus if you're interested in going back to school or auditing some classes in retirement.

The Bottom Line

Retiring on $35,000 a year isn’t that difficult if you’ve got a plan for making your dollars and cents last. Seeking out one of these reasonably priced cities is a step in the right direction. If you can’t afford to move—or don't want to leave family and friends—you can still look for ways to save closer to home. Cutting out unnecessary spending, downsizing your home, and paying off any consumer debt can make a smaller retirement income go further than you think.